Interview: Mirwaiz Umar Farooq

‘What assurance we have to call for a ceasefire’

Print edition : May 26, 2017

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Photo: NISSAR AHMAD

MIRWAIZ UMAR FAROOQ is one of the three leaders, along with Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik, who has spearheaded the movement for “right to self-determination” in Kashmir. Excerpts from an interview:

How do you see the summer unfolding in Kashmir?

It depends on how the Government of India wants the summer to be. If it wants peace in Kashmir and along the borders, it can do so by acknowledging and addressing the people’s overwhelming sentiment and work towards finding a lasting solution.

Is the separatist leadership becoming irrelevant as youth are taking over?

Our youth are at the forefront of the people’s movement. Their sacrifices and deep yearning to be allowed to choose their destiny guaranteed by the world through U.N. are where the leadership draws its strength from. Their belief and commitment to the cause raises the bar for the leadership to deliver.

Do you not think that colleges and schools being shut for more than 10 days because of violence harms the student community?

Students being in classrooms and not on streets, protesting angrily, is the norm. But in Kashmir we are not living in normal times. All sections of society, including students, are at the receiving end of the state policy of suppression. Until last year the authorities made a lot of hue and cry that students suffer greatly because educational institutions are closed as a result of unrest. Now, they are themselves closing schools and colleges to avoid unrest!

Why not leave the resolution of the situation to the political leadership?

Every section of society has been pushed to the wall. This is a reaction to that. After all, the more you push, the more will be the resistance.

A new phenomenon of people rushing to encounter sites can be seen in the Valley. This is leading to killings of civilians by forces. How do you see it?

Yes, a very grim reality of Kashmir. It shows that people see the militants as liberators from oppression and are ready to sacrifice their lives to save them. It also reflects the extent to which people are fed up with the status quo in which they are trapped for the past 70 years in general and 30 years in particular.

Do you not have a responsibility to guide the people?

The leadership has been caged and confined to jails or homes. Our movement has been curtailed. We are not allowed to meet each other or interact with people. Our communication with people is limited to newspapers or social media. Though our contact with people has been restricted, we are bonded with them and understand their anger. And what have we been able to deliver? During Vajpayee ji’s era people’s hopes were raised by his outreach, and we reciprocated. What happened? We were left in the cold and people’s faith was shattered.

Why don’t you offer an unconditional dialogue and ask militants to announce a ceasefire.

What assurance do we have or can we offer the people of Kashmir or those that have taken up arms, that the Government of India is interested in resolving the dispute when they [GOI] have repeatedly dismissed the demand of self-rule or autonomy?

The government maintains that the Hurriyat and other organisations work at the behest of Pakistan?

Our political struggle is indigenous. It has a mass support base as is obvious to all. It is a Kashmiri who gets bulleted and pelleted each day. It is he who faces all forms of repression and yet carries on. The Hurriyat is the custodian of these sacrifices and represents their sentiment and political will with the sole agenda of finding a solution to the Kashmir dispute to the satisfaction of the basic and most-affected party, that is, the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and [ensuring] friendly relations between India and Pakistan, the other two parties to the dispute.

Shujaat Bukhari

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